Sunday, March 24, 2013

MLB Preview 2013: NL East

     With the sudden emergence of the former Montreal Expos a.k.a. the Washington Nationals, the NL East landscape is rapidly changing. But can Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals hold off the new-look Atlanta Braves for the NL East crown?
  1. Washington Nationals: Plus: Stephen Strasburg wasn't the best pitcher for the Nationals in 2012 statistically. That honor goes to Gio Gonzalez, who posted a 21-8 record along with 207 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.89. But this Washington rotation is deep. The addition of Dan Haren only makes it that much deeper. What's more is that Stephen Strasburg could be pitching in the postseason this year if the Nationals make it. Minus: There's not a whole lot to be concerned about if you're a Nationals fan. Just hope that catcher Bryce Harper can break out this season (.270, 22 HR, 59 RBI).
  2. Atlanta Braves: Plus: Craig Kimbrel headlines a stellar Atlanta bullpen as the closer. With a WHIP of 0.65, an ERA of 1.01, 42 saves, 116 strikeouts, a K/9 of 16.66, only seven earned runs allowed, and a WAR of 3.2, Kimbrel is close to becoming the next Mariano Rivera. Eric O'Flaherty (28 holds, 1.73 ERA), Kris Medlen (0.91 WHIP, 120 SO, 1.57 ERA), and Jonny Venters (3.22 ERA, 20 holds) are also part of the Braves' lights-out crew. Minus: While the Braves picked up the Upton brothers during the offseason, they still lost quite a bit during that time. Gone are players like Chipper Jones (retired), Martin Prado (D-Backs), and Michael Bourn (Indians). This team also strikes out a lot; Atlanta ranked 7th as a lineup in strikeouts last year with 1,289 whiffs. And adding B.J. Upton (169 SO) and Justin Upton (121 SO) doesn't help with this problem.
  3. Philadelphia Phillies: Plus: For those of you who think the Phillies will be a complete disaster better remember that they still have Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in their rotation. Hamels (17-6, 3.05 ERA, 216 SO, 2 shutouts) had a career year last season and Cliff Lee (3.16 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 207 SO) might've had a record of 6-9 last year, but only due to a lack of offense that barely supported him. If Roy Halladay can bounce back from their lackluster 2012 campaigns, watch out for this Phillies staff. Minus: Yes the Phillies added plenty of key players to their lineup this offseason with Michael Young, Ben Revere, and Delmon Young. But this lineup is still pretty old. Young (age 36), first baseman Ryan Howard (age 33), second baseman Chase Utley (age 34), and shortstop Jimmy Rollins (age 34) are all at the twilight of their careers. 
  4. New York Mets: Plus: The Mets rotation might've lost R.A. Dickey in the offseason, but it remains their strong point. Granted, their staff's not outstanding. But it's good. Jonathon Niese had a good 2012 season (13-9, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 49 walks, .241 BA), Dillon Gee got off to a great start last year before a blood clot was found in his throwing shoulder, and Shawn Marcum (7-4, 3.70 ERA, .245 BA, 109 SO in 21 starts with Milwaukee) will be a good pickup if he remains healthy. Minus: Mets fans held their breath when third baseman David Wright bowed out of the World Baseball Classic with an intercostal strain. Fortunately, Wright could be back on Opening Day. But unfortunately, Wright doesn't have a lot of help around him. Second baseman Daniel Murphy (.291, 65 RBI) will start the year on the disabled list with injured ribs. Left fielder Scott Hairston (.263, 20 HR, 57 RBI) departed for the Cubs. Lucas Duda (.239, 15 HR, 57 RBI, 120 SO) must make more contact and produce more base hits. Health is another concern for this Mets team as well. 
  5. Miami Marlins: Plus: Don't be fooled by Ricky Nolasco's 4.48 ERA and 12-13 record. The Marlins' starting pitcher was second in the NL in complete games with three and also threw two shutouts. He also walked 47 batters last year, but allowed 214 hits last year. If he can cut down the hits allowed, then he can become just another great pitcher for the Miami Marlins. Also keep an eye on Henderson Alverez. As for the offense, Giancarlo Stanton (.290, 37 HR, 86 RBI) has the potential to hit 40 home runs.Minus: The offseason/midseason fire and trade sale just about depleted the Marlins of any great talent. Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Josh Johnson, Omar Infante, Anibel Sanchez, Mark Buehrle, and John Buck are all gone. Maybe it's time Miami got some new ownership?

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